Monday, March 19, 2018


Sadly, my friends, this week we are saying farewell to Steve Sullivan, The Unknown Gnome, one of Poets United's very first members, who died of pancreatic cancer on March 6th. Steve's wife, Trini, his beloved Dulcina, is kindly allowing me to feature this gentle man, who was my friend. There is a beautiful love story here, so pour a glass of wine. Set out some dark chocolate. Let's have one last bittersweet visit with Steve.

I first interviewed Steve in 2011 and was immediately enraptured by his and Trini's beautiful love story. Steve, (nicknamed TUG online), hails from the USA, but he and Trini, (known online as Dulcina), fell in love across the miles, as some of us sometimes do, through their poems, and Steve followed his heart to Cantabria, Spain, to be with Trini. They married in 2006.

Here is their beautiful little cottage among the mountain peaks. This is where Steve chose to be when he took his last breaths in Trini's arms on March 6th.

Their cat, Grey-Gray

 This is their spectacular view. 
They truly live among the peaks.

One of Steve's biggest chores, when he was well,  was cutting the grass. But he didn't forget to leave a love note to Trini on the lawn.

Trini tells us that everything happened very fast with Steve. His sufferings began at the beginning of the year. He was taken to hospital February 11. The doctors discovered he had pancreatic cancer, stage IV, terrible news.

In February, while in hospital, Steve penned these final lines. He always described himself as "a simple gnome, writing simple poems". But he was so much more than that. He will be remembered through his beautiful poems, and the books and loving memories he left behind. He had such a beautiful and faithful heart. He and Trini lived a God-centered life together, as you will see from these poems.

         ***        ***

in between the beats of pain
in half breath of your love, lord,
i breathe

       ***     ***

it's better to suffer the pain
in this world than the next

         ***     ***

i never knew death
would come with such a lovely smile

        ***      ***

Treatment was to begin March 9, and Steve told the doctor he wanted to be at home until then. An ambulance took him there February 23rd.

On March 7, half an hour before he took his last breath, he told Trini he wanted to watch the Divinity channel.  Trini says, "My Steve, after so much suffering, wanted to see Divinity. I can feel him in the air  and taking care of me every second. He IS a man of God."

Steve often addressed his friends as "dear one". Here is a poem from 2013:

dear one, 
write them
write of the rest one finds in pause
where to think beyond themselves 
is peace

teach them the difference
between the holy
and the common
the worthy
and the worthless
the precious
the vile
and the viral

teach them
the work of faith
the melody of hope
the drama of love
little by little the Way
a pure heart endures


In what were to be his final years, Steve worked on a series of books, which were beautifully done, with poetry and wonderful images. I am proud to possess his books, which are truly  works of art.

Trini tells us, "My Steve said that writing was killing him, but he did not stop until he could finish his last work of poetry, "SBB Trilogy", "The Unseen Seed", "The Unheard Word" and "The Unvoiced Vox", completed with Notes in "Postmortem".

"He spent hours and hours without end writing at his computer. He knew his time on earth was coming to an end. How could he know? He IS - not "was" -  a gifted soul."

The Unknown Gnome Poems

The Unseen Seed Trilogy,
Books I, II and III

***      ***

Trini posted the following poem shortly after Steve's death: "My Steve wrote this beautiful poem about us sleeping embraced in 2015. My Steve is and will be always alive in my soul and in his poetry. Love and good poets are immortal."

as our parting is to be
i leave you this

even in your age
when you no longer leap and rise
and sleep by its design
holds you more than you desire
let me lift with words your spirit
where i will cradle you 
with love beyond rejection

and if there be a next life
promise it to me
be here with me
if not now
then when
we meet again
in love beyond rejection

        ***        ***

Sigh. So much love. Tears of joy, that this man lived and loved so well. Tears of sadness at his passing. 

Steve leaves behind his loving wife, Trini, his son Shawn and daughter Shannon, and their partners, and some adored small grandchildren, to whom he was beloved Grandpa Sully. His wife and family will miss his loving presence every day. We poets in the blogosphere will miss him, too. He encouraged our dreams. He was a beautiful poet, a true friend, and a loving presence online.

Steve, you make me want to be a better person. You will never be forgotten. Trini, our hearts go out to you. And you are right: love and good poets are immortal.

Sadness at the passing of this fine man, one of our own. And gratitude for having known him. Do come back and see who we talk to next, my friends. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Poetry Pantry #395

Taken Inside the Milwaukee Art Center

Time passes so quickly.  I cannot believe it is Sunday again and time for another Poetry Pantry.  My weeks become busier as spring begins.  Time for hibernation is over, it seems.  The world is coming back to life, and it is a good feeling.  The photo above is one that I took inside the Milwaukee Art Center a couple weeks ago.  It is a beautiful building!

It has been another busy week at Poets United.  Monday Sherry featured poems by Rajani, Kerry, and Magaly.   Wednesday Sumana's Midweek Motif was SCREAM.  Next week's Midweek Motif will be Colour/Color.  Feel free to write a poem ahead if you like.

Friday Sherry shared the poem "sacred" for I Wish I'd Written This.  Scroll back if you haven't read it.  Just as Rosemary has been sharing the works of Australian poets, Sherry will be periodically sharing a work of a Canadian poet.  This poem was written by a young member of the Driftpile Cree Nation and what a powerful poem it is!  This poet has a great future.

Monday, be sure to return. Poets United has lost a fine poet, and Sherry features him and his work.  He hadn't posted for a while, but is indeed missed.  His wife is still around in the 'sphere' and will probably read this article as well.  So let's all visit PU tomorrow and give this poet some 'love.' I think many of you will remember him, especially those who have been around for a while.  So sad when we lose someone...and so quickly too.

With no further delay, let's share poetry. Link your one poem below.  Say hello in the comments.  And visit the poems of others who link.

Friday, March 16, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This


a native man looks me in the eyes as he refuses to hold my hand during a round dance. i pretend that his pupils are like bullets and i wonder what kind of pain he's been through to not want me in this world anymore. and i wince a little because the earth hasn't held all of me for quite some time now and i am lonely in a way that doesn't hurt anymore.
you see, a round dance is a ceremony for both grief and love and each body joined by the flesh is encircled by the spirits of ancestors who’ve already left this world. i ask myself how many of them never knew what desire tasted like because they loved their kookums more than they loved themselves.
i dance with my arm hanging by my side like an appendage my body doesn’t want anymore. the gap between him and i keeps getting bigger so i fill it with the memories of native boys who couldn’t be warriors because their bodies were too fragile to carry all of that anger. the ones who loved in that reckless kind of way. you know, when you give up your body for him.
and i think about the time an elder told me to be a man and to decolonize in the same breath. there are days when i want to wear nail polish more than i want to protest. but then i remember that i wasn’t meant to live life here and i paint my nails because 1) it looks cute and 2) it is a protest. and even though i know i am too queer to be sacred anymore, i dance that broken circle dance because i am still waiting for hands who want to hold mine too.
Billy-Ray Belcourt, February, 2016

I could not have written this, as I am not First Nations, nor a young man. But we thought you might enjoy meeting one of Canada’s rising young poets, Billy-Ray Belcourt, a member of the Driftpile Cree Nation.

He began writing poetry at nineteen, and was immediately recognized as a big talent. Now in his early twenties, he has already garnered significant attention on the Canadian literary scene.   He graduated from Oxford in 2017, Canada’s first Indigenous Rhodes scholar. His studies focused on the effects of colonialism on indigenous people's health, medical anthropology and women’s studies.

He is now a PhD student at the University of Alberta in the Department of English and Film studies.

His book of poems called “This Wound is a World” was published in 2017 by Frontenac House.

CBC Books has called Billy-Ray “one of 6 Indigenous writers to watch,” and rated his book “the best Canadian poetry of 2017”.

Of his book, Billy-Ray has said, “I think that this book is a call to arms of sorts. It is a manifesto, a prayer and an instruction manual for something like a queer Indigenous future.

“For me to have been able to break into the writing scene at nineteen, as someone who is Indigenous and openly queer, I had to inject my poems with some critical, academic ethos. But I think, in the end, it made my poetry better.” 

Let’s look at another of this young man’s powerful poems.



the cree word for a body like mine is weesageechak
the old ones know of this kind of shape-shifting:
sometimes i sweat and sweat until my bones puddle on the carpet in my living room and i am like the water that comes before new life
i was born during a falling leaves moon. which is to say: i have always been good at sacrifice
it is believed that women are most powerful during their moontime and because of this do not take part in ceremonies in order to let the body cleanse itself
there are weesageechak days when gender is a magic trick i forgot how to perform and my groin floods and floods trying to cleanse itself like the women and i too become toxic to men who have built cages out of broken boys

maybe if i surrendered myself to Grandmother Moon she would know what to do with these pickaxe wounds: there is so much i need to tell her about how my rivers and lakes are crowded and narrowing. how i managed to piece together a sweat lodge out of mud and fish and bacteria
she gives me the cree name weesageechak and translates it to ‘sadness is a carcass his tears leave behind’

and the crows and flies who don’t care about gender will one day make away with my jet-black finger nails and scraggly armpit hairs and lay tobacco at my grave and tell their crow and fly kin that i was once a broad-shouldered trickster who long ago fell from the moon wearing make-up and skinny jeans
Billy-Ray Belcourt, July, 2016
Belcourt writes, “Heartbreak is sonic: it is the sound one makes when one becomes those who refuse to be put to rest. Everywhere we see that there is an aesthetic component to the brutalities of a world where the pace of everyday life vibrates with Native misery.”

When I hear about a young voice this powerful, I have to believe there will be less Native misery in the years ahead, thanks to young people like him shining their light into all the dark corners of Canadian colonialism. (Which is still alive and well, I am sorry to say.)

Billy-Ray’s website can be found here. He is also on facebook here.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.